Do you know what I hate? I hate that my language has no word for a sorrow that is presently felt but historically experienced. Do you understand what I mean? A word to use when you wake and drink coffee and get dressed and then realize it is November 19th and your sweet, heroic friend has been dead for exactly two years.
What word do I use when my husband, on our drive to church, says “What’s on your mind, my love?” ‘Heartbroken’ isn’t right. I did that already. ‘Distraught’ is too dramatic, ‘sad’ is too trite. ‘Angry’ is a pointless choice and ‘misery’ implies that no good thing has happened since she passed. Which isn’t true. Which, praise God, simply isn’t true.
So? What am I left with? How am I to greet my friends on this day, my friends who also dressed and ate and even worshiped under the weight of this nameless sorrow? We say “hello” and “good morning” and “how are you.” But even in our talking, we have no word. We embrace, but then, we always hug each other. So even this is of no consequence, no comfort.
We can see it in each other–this nameless, painful thing. We can sense it. In the way we button our children’s coats before they race outside after church. In the way we touch our babies’ fat cheeks and kiss their soft heads as we buckle them in to car seats. And when we take our husbands’ arms and turn to leave, we see it.
Because we are here. To do these things. To love our children, to cling to our spouses, to drink too much coffee and make frozen pizza for lunch and change the diapers and wash the dishes and sit down for the first time since morning because that’s what it is to be a mom. And damn it, Hannah, why did you have to die? Why are we doing these things without you?
We need a word for this. Because we know where she is and in that place there is no need for sadness and none for tears but still, we are the mothers who hug her children.
And we know that she is new, and whole and healed and so very much alive. We know that she is worshipping the Savior who loves her and gave Himself for her. Amen and amen. But still, we are the women visiting her grave site instead of her dining room table.
And we know all things will come together. All things will be made right. All things will make sense. But still, we are the ones lost in a dichotomy. Torn between rejoicing at her current state and raging at the death that snatched her. Catching our breath at the beauty of our vibrant children and having our breath catch in our throats because death is very, very real. Nurturing life in the face of death. Loving fiercely in the face of a fierce enemy. Making a simple dinner and mourning profoundly.
We need a word for this. Aren’t we desperate for it?
For a word that professes faith in the sovereign, relentless goodness of God while giving homage to the bone grinding mill we live in. A word that articulates what it means to move on, to go on living well, while her death lingers in our pockets like a shard of broken glass. A word that can say, at the same time, it is well with my soul (because it is) and this soul of mine aches with the pain of losing (because it does).
What word is there, Hannah? To say we miss you and love you and so much has happened since you’ve been gone and we think about you every day, even on the days when we never consciously think of you.
What word is there to sum it all up? To concisely explain everything we feel?
Or maybe, just maybe, Hannah, there simply isn’t a word. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.